During the course of producing a digital video film you are going to require a number of crew members to help a large project achieve its goals. These include well known positions like the producer, director, and editor, but also what is often referred to as “office personnel.” The central task manager for the practical work that is often regulated to the production office is the production manager. Here is a general look at the production manager’s job description, and how they deal with their department.
The office itself is a figurative term, and on smaller productions does not literally mean an office. What this refers to is all the work that seems to go along with an office situation. This means formal business communication, distribution of documents, and contact tasks. The production manager oversees all of this work, and often answers to the unit production manager on larger films and just the producer on smaller, more independent videos. All pre-production, production, and post-production forms and documents go to the production manager upon creation. These include things such as the shooting schedule, the call sheet, the DOOD, and the one-liners. It is then the production manager’s responsibility to see that everyone on the cast and crew gets their appropriate share of the documents and that they are well-organized and catalogued for storage and reference. Likewise, it is up to them to itemize and distribute the correct legal documents such as photo release and liability forms.
They are in charge of positions such as the accountant and legal departments, and on low-budget productions may take on this role themselves. Since they will be responsible for dealing with all insurance documents they are likely the person who will work on the technical issues with the insurance and financial institutions the production is dealing with. The larger the film the larger the budget and the more responsibility the production manager ends up having. The production coordinator will often be reporting to them directly, especially since the next step for them is going to be to a production manager job. They will, however, be subordinate to the producer and the line producer, and the production manager salary will also be lower in the long run.
The finances of the film is really a main focus of the production manager, and they are often tapped to make daily, weekly, even monthly financial reports on what happens in all aspects of production. Everything technical needs to be scrutinized by this position, especially if they have subordinates working under them. They will often step out of this technical office role to communicate with other departments and do different tasks, which is common of everyone in the production department. This does not, however, take away from their primary role in accountability. The production manager job is always going to be to take on this “managerial” role and create paperwork that is going to show where the money went and to what so that the line producer and production accountant can work correctly. Since they will often be the liaison between the studio and the production office, they may be out of the office more often so as to deliver reports and provide proper communication. This will work the same way with independent films in that they will communicate with funders or other people that are outside of the active production but have a stake in its success, such as the executive producer.
This is one of those positions that can really help a production, but can be done by one of the producers if the crew has to be so limited. No matter what it is important to know the tasks a production manager takes and relegate them to someone explicitly so that they get done. In reverse, the production manager’s job will change if there is not an active production accountant or missing other positions. For example, they may take on some of the production coordinator’s role if there is none and then put off the rest of it to the key PA, producer’s assistant, 2nd second assistant director, and so on. Hopefully the production manager’s salary will end up reflecting the change in job description.